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It was a horrible accident. What was left of the black Mercedes lay outside the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris after the devastating crash in August 1997. French firefighter Xavier Gourmelon was among the first to arrive at the scene early on that tragic Saturday morning and immediately went to work rescuing the victims. But Gourmelon and his team had no idea who the victims truly were.

As he pulled the blonde woman out of the wrecked car, he noticed that she still had signs of life. Her lips moved as she struggled to let words out. But Gourmelon could barely hear her, so he leaned closer. That was when it hit him that the woman whose life he was fighting to save was special⁠. After almost three decades, Gourmelon finally shared that he really thought Princess Diana would survive. But after her tragic death, he would learn that he had been the recipient of her final words…

The Accident

Gourmelon, along with nine other firemen, raced to the Pont d’ Alma underpass to help the victims of the devastating crash. The vehicle involved, a Mercedes-Benz W140, had its front totally wrecked in the accident. Looking inside it, the men could see that one of its occupants appeared to have died.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Lady Diana Spencer, wearing a yellow, pink and blue silk striped suit designed by David Neil, sits in a car while attending a polo match at Windsor Great Park following a day at Royal Ascot on June 16, 1981 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

Gourmelon examined the situation. He scoured the luxury saloon to see if there was anyone else he could still try and save. Then his eyes caught a young, blonde woman inside. She looked like she was still breathing, albeit faintly.

To the Rescue

When Gourmelon successfully freed the blonde woman from the car, she was in fairly stable condition, so he was surprised to learn that she later passed away in the hospital. All the while he was attending to her, he had no idea who she actually was and simply concentrated on doing his best to ensure she survived in that critical moment.

TETBURY, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Lady Diana Spencer, wearing a red and white polka dot suit designed by Jasper Conran, waves as she attends her first walkabout with her fiance Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, two months before their wedding, on May 22, 1981 in Tetbury, Gloucestshire, United Kingdom. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

He was even more shocked later on when he found out that the young woman he had saved was, in fact, Diana, Princess of Wales. But there was more to the situation. While he was helping her out of the car, she whispered something to him. And he kept those words a secret for two decades.

Diana’s Destiny

With an aristocratic heritage, Lady Diana Spencer became acquainted with the royal family at an early age. Her family lived near the Sandringham House, so she often saw many of the kingdom’s nobles and spent time during her younger years with them. 

Lady Diana Spencer, the future Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) at a polo match in Hampshire, 1981. It was on this occasion that she was driven to tears by press intrusion. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

Academically, however, Spencer wasn’t so fortunate, so she later compensated for it by taking a slew of low-paying jobs in London. However, Diana was destined for a more illustrious future. At 16, her life took an interesting turn that would forever change not only the way she lived but also her family’s fortune.

Nuptial Bells

Diana aged beautifully, but she never shed her shy and humble nature. It was this graceful personality of hers that attracted Charles, Prince of Wales. At the time, Charles was dating Sarah, her older sister, but soon after, a relationship blossomed between the prince and Diana.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a wedding dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and the Spencer family Tiara, leave St. Paul
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

The couple tied the knot in 1981 in a fairytale-like ceremony that was broadcast all over the world. An estimated 700 million people worldwide tuned in to watch the Prince of Wales and Diana exchange vows at St. Paul’s Cathedral. But unlike fairytales, sadly, this couple did not live happily ever after.

The Center of Attention

Now a member of Britain’s royal family, Diana faced rules and stringent expectations that were not aligned with her reserved and humble nature. At first, it seemed that having married a prince was the best thing that could have happened to her, but the union soon became agonizing for Diana, especially when she discovered she was pregnant.

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 1980:  Diana Spencer at the Young England Kindergarten in September 1980 shortly before her engagement to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales was announced.  (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

For the most part, the void Diana felt within her was because she considered herself undeserving of her new position as a princess. As the media and paparazzi swarmed around her, following her every move and even publishing photographs of her and her family in what were supposed to be intimate and private moments, Diana became overwhelmed. But as the years went by, she quickly learned that the stress of constantly being under the public eye would not be the only bane of her life.

In Secret

The public saw Prince Charles’s family as a happy, picture-perfect clan. But on the other side of the royal walls, it was a tumultuous affair (quite literally) and their marriage was breaking down. It was reported that both Charles and Diana cheated on each other, and it was later revealed that she suffered from an eating disorder, as well as episodes of mental breakdowns. 

CAIRO, EGYPT - MAY 12: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a yellow blouse and skirt, during a visit to the Cairo Institute of Polio and Rehabilitation on May 12, 1992 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

While Diana battled to keep a happy demeanor for her role in the public eye, it is widely believed that Charles’s rekindled and brazen love affair with his old flame Camila Parker-Bowles, was the final straw in their marriage, as it was done with no regard for Diana’s feelings.

Separate Ways

Just a little over a decade after their wedding-of-the-century nuptials, Charles’s and Diana’s marriage crumbled irrevocably. They separated in 1992 and their divorce was finalized in 1996. Fans of the couple were devastated, and it was reported that the divorce hurt Diana more than it did Prince Charles.

Princess Diana, Princess of Wales  making a speech at the Centrepoint Conference for the Homeless at the Savoy Theatre, on December 12, 1995 in London, England.   (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

Without many friends to confide in, she stepped back from public life. One tabloid reporter claimed that Diana had very few “true friends” in her life. But on the bright side, Diana’s love life thrived after she and Charles split.

Scandalous Affairs

Still young and gorgeous, it was reported that a throng of suitors surrounded the princess. It was also alleged that during her marriage, she was engaged in love affairs with men such as cavalryman James Hewitt and her bodyguard Paul Manakee.

Princess Diana wtih her bodyguard, Detective Alan Peters (right), circa 1990. (Photo by Tom Stoddart/Getty Images)
Tom Stoddart Archive/GettyImages

It also came to light that she had to axe her affair with childhood friend James Gilbey, a car dealer, after phone calls became public in which he called her “Squidgy.” As you can imagine, the media feasted on that specific story.

Behind Closed Doors

Then British-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan came along and stole the princess’s heart. It appeared their relationship brought joy back into her life. The romance was kept a tight secret, as Diana searched for a way to live far from the public eye.

File Photo Showing Dr Hasnat Khan Visiting A Hospital On The Outskirts Of London In 1997. (Photo by Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images)
Antony Jones/GettyImages

She disclosed to friends that she had never met anyone like Khan. The princess had been completely enamored by the surgeon when she first met him while on a visit with a friend to London’s Royal Brompton Hospital.

Head Over Heels

What’s more, according to Vanity Fair, Khan and Diana’s romance continued to progress to the point where they started talking about marriage. Though the princess tried to persuade Khan to agree to a private wedding, he reportedly expelled the idea.

284700 05: (FILE PHOTO) Heart surgeon Hasnat Khan is shown walking in this 1996 file photo. According to British
Getty Images/GettyImages

Hasnat was never a fan of all the publicity that came with dating the world’s most famous woman. Instead, he proposed that they both move to Pakistan, where they’d be free of the media meddling in their affairs. Diana reportedly actually gave the idea some genuine consideration.

Nearly Wed

On top of that, the princess also reportedly shared her feelings about Hasnat with her close friends, who is now prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. Khan later revealed that the conversations he had with her convinced him that she was in love with Hasnat.

LAHORE, PAKISTAN - FEBRUARY 20: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a traditional pink shalwar kameez, is welcomed at Lahore airport by Imran Khan on February 20, 1996 in Lahore, Pakistan. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

But ultimately, the relationship started to fall apart. Despite the new development, Diana continued to work tirelessly for causes she supported. She attended the English National Ballet and visited Mother Theresa before gracing the 1997 cover of Vanity Fair.

Someone New

That very month, Egyptian billionaire Mohammed Al-Fayed invited Diana to holiday in St. Tropez in the south of France. Al-Fayed first met Diana and Prince Charles in July 1986, when they were introduced at a polo tournament.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08:  Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a red suit designed by Catherine Walker, listens to speeches as she attends The London Lighthouse for the launch of the
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

Diana accepted his invitation and went on the trip with her two sons, Princes William and Harry, and they stayed in the billionaire’s villa. It came as little surprise when reports started flying around that it was there that Diana became romantically involved with Al Fayed’s son, Dodi.

New Romance

Even while on vacation in France, the People’s Princess and her brood were still not free from the prying eyes of the press. She was stalked by the paparazzi, and many still haven’t forgotten when pictures of her kissing Dodi aboard the Al Fayed family’s yacht made frontpage news.

MAJORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 15:  (L-R) Diana, Princess of Wales, Charles, Prince of Wales, and King Constantine II of Greece on board the yacht of King Juan Carlos of Spain
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

During an unplanned press briefing later on, Diana told the reporters present that she would stun them with her next move. But unbeknownst to her or anyone else, her statement would end up being eerily predictive.

Dodi Al Fayed

Princess Diana and Dodi’s relationship strengthened in the weeks before they were tragically killed. But he is said to have admired the princess from afar and had his eyes set on her long before his father invited her on a luxury trip to France.

HONG KONG - NOVEMBER 07:  Diana, Princess of Wales, during her official visit to Hong Kong on November 7, 1989 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

Dodi was the eldest son and had grown up in affluence. But he’d also made a name for himself as a movie producer and earned credits on Hook, Chariots of Fire, and The Scarlet Letter.

It’s Over 

Upon returning to London, Diana called off her two-year relationship with Hasnat Khan, the man she had once referred to as “Mr. Wonderful,” as he later told the police. He quickly presumed she had opened up her heart to someone new⁠ – maybe a member of the Al Fayed family.

BRAEMAR, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 05: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a tartan dress designed by Caroline Charles and a black Tam o
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

Khan did not hold the Egyptian businessman in high regard and let the princess know that he felt the new affair would end up hurting her. But although Diana was heartbroken that she and Khan hadn’t worked out, her mind was made up about Dodi.

Head Over Heels

Dodi was clearly smitten by Diana⁠, despite the fact that he was at that time engaged to American model Kelly Fisher. Apparently, to make the princess aware of his intentions, he reportedly showered her with expensive gifts, including exotic tropical fruits, a Cartier watch, and flowers that filled her entire room.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 03: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a red jacket designed by Jan van Velden, with a white and red polka dot dress and a matching hat, during a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens on November 3, 1985 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

He would, at last, receive a positive response to his expressions of love when Diana agreed to embark on a relationship with him. Dodi had earned a harmless playboy status before getting involved with Diana and was known to have dated a string of celebs, including Brooke Shields and Julia Roberts.

Engagement Rumors

In any case, views differed about the strength of Diana and Dodi’s relationship as the summer of 1997 came to an end. Vanity Fair, for example, stated that Dodi intended to buy the princess a ring.

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) attends the races, UK, circa 1981. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

However, the princess had told her close friend Rosa Monckton that she was going to wear the ring on a finger on her right hand. Furthermore, Monckton felt that Diana just wanted to make Khan envious. Dodi’s dad, on the contrary, strongly believed that the ring was meant to mark the pair’s engagement.

Happy Days

Whatever the reality of the situation was, however, Diana and Dodi clearly enjoyed spending time with each other. And at the end of July 1997, the couple decided to embark on a cruise together to Sardinia.

MAJORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 15:  Diana, Princess of Wales, on board the yacht of King Juan Carlos of Spain
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

But being the hottest couple on the planet meant the paparazzi was once again hot on their heels. In August of that year, Diana was present at an anti-landmine event in Bosnia. While she was there, photographs of her and Dodi snuggling on his yacht hit newsstands.

Ready for the Next Step

The pair was back in France at the end of the month following their wonderful vacation in Sardinia. This time, they chose to visit the city of Paris, checking into the Hôtel Ritz, which is owned by Dodi’s father.

VERSAILLES, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 28: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a black halter-neck evening gown with bugle beads designed by Catherine Walker, attends La Deuxieme Nuit International de L
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

In 2019, The Daily Mirror reported that whilst Diana remained in their suite, Dodi headed out to a jeweler to secure the ring that the princess was anticipating. Then during the night of August 30, 1997, they decided to eat out at the extravagant Benoit restaurant.

Paparazzi Trouble

Although the couple had planned on an intimate dinner together, the paparazzi threatened to ruin their night out. As they hit the road on their way to Benoit, they were followed by about 30 photographers. So the pair made a u-turn back to the Ritz, deciding instead to dine at the hotel’s L’Espadon restaurant.

LLANTWIT MAJOR, WALES - JUNE 05: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a red jacket designed by Jan van Velden, with a white and red polka dot dress and a matching hat, visits Atlantic College on June 5, 1985 in Llantwit Major, United Kingdom. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

But as they settled down to their meal, Dodi became concerned that some of the guests around them were actually paparazzi. This left him and Diana with no other alternative but to return to their suite.

Being Trailed

As soon as they were done with dinner, Diana and Dodi decided to retire to his luxurious apartment on the Rue Arsène Houssaye for the rest of the night. But once more, they faced a glaring problem.

Photographers and camera operators gather behind a security barrier outside Manor House on Prince William
Princess Diana Archive/GettyImages

The paparazzi had tailed the couple from the minute they left the Ritz earlier that evening. So the couple was almost certain that photographers were lurking around, waiting for them to make a move. Eventually, they came up with what can be termed a grand plot.

A Simple Plan

The plan involved Henri Paul, the deputy head of security at the hotel. Although it was his night off, Paul was called back in to drive Dodi, the princess, and her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones to Dodi’s apartment.

LA SPEZIA - APRIL 20: Diana Princess of Wales with Prince Charles on board a ship at the naval base on April 20, 1985 in La Spezia, Italy during the Royal Tour of Italy. Diana wore a dress by Catherine Walker with a hat by Kangol (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
David Levenson/GettyImages

It was arranged that two decoy cars would leave from the main entrance of the hotel in order to fool the paparazzi, while Paul and the others would exit through the back in a hired black Mercedes Benz. This wall took place in the early hours of August 31, 1997.

Just After Midnight

They all got in the car and Paul zoomed down the road. But the swarm of paparazzi somehow had become aware of the plan and began aggressively tailing the limo. Sitting in front with Paul was Rees-Jones.

LONDON - JANUARY 23:  Princess Diana
Daniel Berehulak/GettyImages

Subsequently, an inquest heard that the paparazzi, who had earlier on been goaded by Paul outside the hotel, had attempted to “block” the vehicle to force Paul to slow down, but their efforts were futile. Rather, the Mercedes proceeded on its journey, traveling at about 65 mph before disaster struck.

A Sad Fate

The limo continued to blaze down the road. Just three minutes after departing the hotel, right as he was entering the tunnel under Pont d’Alma, Paul lost control of the vehicle. There were no paparazzi closeby at the time that would have been blamed for the mishap, so ultimately, the inquest would place the error on Paul.

Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Not only was he driving with so much alcohol in his system that he was more than three times over the legal limit, but it was also found that he was under the effects of prescription drugs.

The Tragic Crash

The vehicle hit the wall of the tunnel, swerved left, and with great force, rammed into one of the pillars that supported the roof. It was a brutal and fatal crash that claimed Paul’s life on the spot. And as the mangled remains of the black limo lay in the tunnel, the paparazzi, who had been pursuing the car on motorbikes, arrived at the scene.

ZELL AM SEE, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 08: A motorcyclist and cars drive through the tunnel of the the Hochtor (2504 m) on September 08, near Zell am See, Austria. The Grossglockner high alpine road is the highest  mountain pass road in Austria. It connects Bruck in the state of Salzburg with Heiligenblut in Carinthia. The road is named after the Grossglockner, Austria
Jan Hetfleisch/GettyImages

But they made little effort to help the affected passengers, opting instead to photograph the wreckage. Thankfully, though, someone eventually put a call through to emergency services, and a team of firefighters hurried out from the Malar station close by.

Rescuers Arrive

The team of heroic firefighters was headed by Gourmelon – the duty officer on that tragic night. Now, 20 years after his encounter with the victims, he revealed to The Sun exactly what he and his team had discovered.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23:  Debris from cars is seen on the road as police crash scene investigators and firemen inspect vehicles involved in a fatal collision inside Melbourne

Recalling details about the accident involving the world’s most famous couple at the time, Gourmelon said, “The car was in a mess, and we just dealt with it like any road accident. We got straight to work to see who needed help and who was alive.”

Helping the Victims

As an experienced firefighter, the horror crash Gourmelon witnessed was not new to him, and he did what he knew best: analyze the situation and provide help. “For me, this was simply a banal traffic accident⁠ – one of many that emergency services have to deal with⁠ – and it was the usual causes: speed and a drunk driver,” Gourmelon went on.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23:  Police crash scene investigators and firemen inspect vehicles involved in a fatal collision inside Melbourne

He also immediately knew that nothing could be done to save Paul. In his interview with The Sun, Gourmelon said, “When I got to the car, I could see the driver was already dead, and there was nothing that could be done for him.”


Unfortunately, Dodi’s fate in the back seat of the limo wasn’t much better. While still inside, he had suffered a heart attack. Gourmelon was familiar with such traumas, and Dodi’s situation was not looking good at all. He did not survive and died shortly after impact.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Rescuers wait to evacuate passengers injured as several subway cars derailed in Moscow, on July 15, 2014. At least 18 people died and dozens were injured after a train derailed in the Moscow metro in a tunnel between Park Pobedy and Slavyansky Bulvar stations, in rush hour on Tuesday morning. The cause of the crash is reported to be a power surge, which prompted the train to stop abruptly. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Once he’d been extracted from the vehicle, the paramedics called his time of death. But for bodyguard Rees-Jones, there was hope. Although he had been severely injured, including several major facial injuries, he, fortunately, went on to make a recovery.

The Princess’s Bodyguard

Even though he was in great danger, Rees-Jones’s major concern was clearly Diana. In a state of panic, he repeatedly asked for the princess. As Gourmelon recalled, “He kept asking for the princess, saying, ‘Where is she? Where is she?’”

LONDON - JANUARY 23:  Princess Diana
Daniel Berehulak/GettyImages

“But my team told him to keep calm and not speak. I told him that none of my men spoke English so it was better for him to keep still and not move. I told him not to worry we were looking after everyone,” he added. This advice may have been the thing to save Rees-Jones’s life, as despite his extensive injuries (including breaking every bone in his face that required doctors to use family photos as references to rebuild his looks with 150 titanium plates) and 10 days in a coma, he would be the only survivor. Now head of security for AstraZeneca, he published The Bodyguard’s Story: Diana, The Crash, And The Sole Survivor in 2000 and was then involved in lawsuits with Dodi’s father, who he said put “intense” pressure on him to remember the events of that fateful night.

Diana Spencer

In the meantime, Gourmelon took care of Diana, but at the time, he had no idea who she was and identified her as the mystery “blonde woman.” The princess was lying on the floor in the back seat of the car. She was conscious and her eyes were open, so the hero firefighter felt she would be alright after all.

LAGOS, NIGERIA - MARCH 15:  Diana, Princess of Wales, attends a State Banquet during her official visit to Nigeria on March 15, 1990 in Lagos, Nigeria. The princess wears a Catherine Walker dress.  (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

Diana was also reportedly able to make some small movements. But despite her state, crucial seconds were ticking by, and she needed to be moved to a hospital immediately.

The Princess of Wales

Gourmelon gave Diana oxygen and she grasped his hand as he got ready to bring her out of the limo. And the entire time he had no idea he was really attending to the Princess of Wales. This he later revealed in his interview with the newspaper.

UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 04:  Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 -1997) during the Queen Mother
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

He told The Sun, “It was only when she had been put into the ambulance that one of the paramedics told me it was [Princess Diana].” In addition, the firefighter also disclosed the chilling words she spoke to him that night.

The Words

While Gourmelon cared for the princess, making sure she didn’t suffer any more harm, she uttered some words to him that may just have been the last words she ever spoke.

TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 12: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a pleated royal blue evening dress designed by fashion designer Yuki and a sapphire and diamond headband made from jewels which she had reset from the Saudi suite converting the watch into a choker to wear on her forehead, attends a dinner hosted by Emperor Hirohito on May 12, 1986 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

Apparently in shock at the mess of the wrecked car, she reportedly said to the man who had rescued her, “My God, what’s happened?” And although Gourmelon did not disclose in his interview whether he ever replied to the princess or not, he spoke about what happened to her next.

Saving a Life

Diana was certainly in good hands with Gourmelon and the rest of the first responders as they worked tirelessly to save her and Rees-Jones after their horrific ordeal. But given the circumstances, there was only so much they could do.


Gourmelon said, “I gave [Diana] some oxygen, and my team and I stayed by her side as she was taken out of the car. It was very quick because we didn’t have to cut any of the wreckage.” But sadly, as she was placed on a stretcher, she suffered a heart attack.

Cardiac Arrest

Diana, who had been sitting in the right-back passenger seat when the crash occurred, was reported to have had no visible serious injuries. But the nightmare wasn’t over yet for the princess. She went into cardiac arrest at about 1:00 am, so Gourmelon quickly gave her aid.

MONACO - SEPTEMBER 18: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a black dress and black boater hat with a netted veil, attends the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco on September 18, 1982 in Monaco. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

At first, it appeared to work. He said in his interview, “I massaged her heart, and a few seconds later she started breathing again. It was a relief, of course, because as a first responder you want to save lives⁠ – and that’s what I thought I had done.”

No Visible Major Injury

After Diana’s heart started beating again, Gourmelon strongly believed that she would be fine. And he had good reason to think so. Firstly, there wasn’t any blood on her, despite the severity of the crash.

Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1988 ca.  (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

And what’s more, it appeared she had only sustained a minor injury to her right shoulder, It was all the firefighter could notice. Then Gourmelon and his team may have thought they had effectively protected Diana from any more danger. But little did they know the worst was yet to come for her.

It Appeared She Would Live

Hopes were high when Diana was being moved into the emergency vehicle. She appeared to be stable and was on her way to meet the best hands at Pitié-Salpétrière Hospital. Gourmelon thought the princess had a good chance of survival.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 04:  Diana, Princess of Wales, attends the Queen Mother
Georges De Keerle/GettyImages

He told The Sun, “To be honest, I thought she would live.” But it would be hours after the devastating crash and Diana’s transportation to the hospital that he would receive news that not only shocked him but also rocked the entire world.

Hospital Care

Shortly after 2:00 a.m., the ambulance arrived at the hospital, and Diana was immediately rushed into surgery. Doctors raced against time and fought hard to keep the princess conscious. She had to be revived several times, and their efforts were ultimately futile.

In an overwhelming outpouring of grief and sympathy, over one million bouquets of flowers were left at Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, and St. James
Peter Turnley/GettyImages

Diana, Princess of Wales, passed on after succumbing to her injuries. She had suffered, amongst others, a ruptured blood vessel close to her heart. The damage was inconspicuous but extensive. Unfortunately, the night wasn’t yet over for Gourmelon.

Princess Diana Is Dead

After Diana had been transported to the hospital, Gourmelon returned to the fire station. He was working a double weekend shift and recalled how he immediately called his wife to tell her what had happened that night.

(Original Caption) Mourners outside Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. (Photo by © Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ralf-Finn Hestoft/GettyImages

The lead firefighter said, “[My wife] was asleep, and I told her about the accident and Princess Diana. I said that she had suffered a cardiac arrest, but I’d managed to revive her.” Sadly, though, at around  04:00 a.m., the princess passed away.

The 20-Year-Old Secret

Fondly known as the People’s Princess, the death of Diana shook the world. It was trailed by an unprecedented outpouring of emotion from the public. And for Gourmelon back in France, the events of that fateful night in August remained fresh in his memory.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 08: Nationalists try to light a stolen car on Springfield Road just up from Peace Wall interface gates which divide the nationalist and loyalist communities on April 8, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Trouble has flared for a second night running in the Springfield Road area of Belfast. US President Joe Biden joined UK prime minister Boris Johnson and the Irish prime minister Micheal Martin in a call for calm. Police are describing events as the worst scale of violence seen in Belfast for years.  (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Charles McQuillan/GettyImages

Despite the media frenzy, he did not speak about the tragedy for two decades⁠ until he was no longer part of the fire service. In his interview with The Sun, the hero firefighter said, “I can still picture the whole scene. It’s something I’ll never forget and that I always think about at this time of year.”

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The incredible story of Pablo Escobar was one filled with Hippos, Learjets, and Designer Prisons.

There are famous criminals. and then there are those whose crime turned into a full-blown empire. This was the story of drug king Pablo Escobar, a man that had managed to build a movie-like cartel and escape the authorities for more than three decades, turning into a highly-controversial legend. 

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 23: A bottle of anti-depressant pills named Paxil are shown March 23, 2004 photographed in Miami, Florida. The Food and Drug Administration asked makers of popular anti-depressants to add or strengthen suicide-related warnings on their labels as well as the possibility of worsening depression especially at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are increased or decreased.  (Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Colombian National Police Public domain

By the time he was 20, he was dabbling in small-time crime to supplement his income. By his 30th birthday, he was the kingpin of one of the most notorious drug-trafficking cartels the world has ever known. This is the amazing and bloody life story of Pablo Escobar.

Getting Started

Escobar was born in December 1949, to a farmer father and a school teacher mother. The third child of seven, Pablo and his family grew up in poverty in the city of Medellin. He began his criminal enterprises young by stealing tombstones, sanding down their inscriptions, and reselling them. He also arranged fake high school diplomas and sold contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets. Soon enough, Escobar’s crimes escalated from petty—to violent.

MIAMI - MARCH 30:  Menthol cigarettes are seen for sale on a shelf at a Quick Stop store on March 30, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  Today in Washington, DC a public hearing began before a committee of outside experts that advises the Food and Drug Administration as they weigh the evidence of menthol

As a youth, Pablo performed armed robberies of banks in Medellín before dropping out of school and joining a gang. They would take cars, sometimes right in front of the drivers during the day, and quickly break them down into valuable parts, selling them for a lot of money. With the money they bribed local officials to give them new documents for the stolen cars, so he didn’t have to take them apart anymore.

Robin Hood Killer

One of the most famous incidents connected to young Pablo was attributed to the case of Diego Echavarria, a rich factory owner in Envigado, during the summer of 1971. Diego Echavarria was a respected man in wealthy social circles, but many poor workers in Medellín didn’t like him. This was because lots of them were losing their jobs in the local textile mills.

Diego Echavarria and his familt/Imgur

Also at that time, rich landowners in Antioquia were taking over land along the Magdelena River valley, and entire villages of farmers were evicted to the city’s slums. The unpopular factory owner was found dead in a hole not far from where Pablo was born. He was kidnapped six weeks earlier, and even though his family had paid a $50,000 ransom to get him back, he had been beaten and strangled to death.

Underage Bride

Maria Victoria Henao was just 15 years old when she married Pablo Escobar, a fully grown 27-year-old man. She was also, as far as her parents were concerned, a step or two above him on the social ladder. They may not have been worried by the age gap, but they certainly didn’t approve of the socio-economic difference.

A US one hundred dollar bill with Benjamin Franklin is seen amongst other bills in New York on Friday, February 19, 2016. The U.S. Treasury Dept. is proposing phasing out the $100 bill because the larger bills are

Of course, their daughter growing up with a lack of money was not something the Henao family ever really needed to worry about, but perhaps some other things that would come to trouble them instead. Pablo and Maria went on to have two children together; a son named Juan and a daughter they called Manuela.

His Biggest Supporter

Pablo Escobar’s wife Maria stood by him in everything he did. So much so, it was believed members of rival carters would seek to obtain recordings of Maria and Pablo talking so they could play them for their wives. The intention was to show their own wives how they would like them to behave, which was no doubt well received by all.

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 28: Crowds gather in Paris to welcome the riders in the 21st and final stage of the 2019 Tour de France on July 28, 2019 in Paris, France. Columbian Egan Bernal of Team Ineos is the first Columbian to win the Tour and at the age of 22, is the youngest winner for 110 years in the 100th year of the Maillot Jaune or Yellow Jersey. (Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)

It’s believed this supportive attitude from Maria contributed to the other cartels choosing not to try and kill her and her two children. Maria did have one preference for Pablo’s behavior, however; she encouraged him to avoid violence where possible.

Grim Unicorn

Like many young girls, Manuela Escobar once asked her loving father for a horse. However, it wasn’t a simple pony on this hopeful daughter’s wish list, she wanted a unicorn. A simple matter of those creatures not existing wasn’t going to stop Pablo Escobar’s little girl from getting what she’d asked for.

CAMAJUANI, VILLA CLARA, CUBA - 2019/03/19: An unicorn which is part of the

Escobar brought in a horse and had a cone stapled to its head. He also had wings stapled to the animal for good measure. Amazing for Manuela, not so much for her horse. Not only must it have been in severe pain at the time, it later developed an infection and died.

My Life and My Prison With Pablo Escobar

However, if Maria was Escobar’s biggest supporter, it was not always the case the other way around. In fact, the now 57-year-old widow was only 12 when she fell in love with the drug baron and didn’t know what was expecting her when she married him two years later.

ANGOLA, LA - APRIL 23:  An inmate holds onto a fence during the Angola Prison Rodeo at the Louisiana State Penitentiary April 23, 2006 in Angola, Louisiana. The Angola Prison Rodeo, opened in 1965, is the longest running prison rodeo in the nation. The 10,000 seat arena was built entirely by inmate labor. The prison holds approximately 5,000 male inmates, 68 percent of whom are serving life sentences.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In her memoir My Life and My Prison With Pablo Escobar, she opens up about her marriage and moments of intimacy with the worldwide criminal and recalls a traumatic event from when she was only 14 years old. Escobar caused her to abort her baby, forcing her to lie down in an insalubrious clinic while a woman was placing plastic tubes into her womb.


And Pablo Escobar wasn’t always the most faithful husband as well. In 2007, the Colombian journalist and author Virginia Vallejo wrote a memoir titled Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar) in which she detailed a romantic relationship with the cartel leader.

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 26:  Psychologist Alejandra Vallejo Nagera presents

Similarly, the “Queen of Narco-Trafficking”, Griselda Blanco, who helped distribute the cartel’s products, may also have had romantic connections to the famed criminal, and wrote a diary in which she referred to Escobar in the endearing yet quite scary nicknames of “Coque de Mi Rey” (My Coke King) and “Polla Blanca”.

Plan A and Plan B

Pablo didn’t only stray from his relationship with his wife, but he also ignored her advice for than once. Maria tried to persuade her husband against violence but, like many husbands, he didn’t always listen to his wife’s advice. When arrested for possession of 39 pounds of cocaine in 1976, Escobar dabbed in taking the non-violent road and offered the judge a bribe.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Drug users prepare cocaine before injecting, inside of a Safe Consumption van set up by Peter Krykant on September 25, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. Peter a recovering heroin addict and former drugs worker, has set up the drug consumption van where addicts can inject safely and take drugs under supervision. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

When his buy-off attempt was rejected, however, Escobar chose to have the arresting officers murdered rather than take his punishment. This proved to be horrifyingly effective for him, and it was a tactic Escobar would become well known for in his career.

Body Count

In fact, by the time he died, Pablo Escobar had something of a large body count. Though he continued to employ bribery when it was appropriate, Escobar understood violence and murder were often the most efficient way to get the results he wanted.

NAPLE, NAPLES, CAMPANIA, ITALY - 2021/03/15: (EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts death.) The body of Antonio Volpe, Camorra boss, was killed with gunshots in via Leopardi in the Fuorigrotta district. (Photo by Salvatore Laporta/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images)

More than 4000 people are believed to have been killed at the hand, or by the order of, the King of Cocaine. Around a quarter of these were public officials, including police officers, journalists, and government workers. Judges were particularly targeted by Escobar; over 200 are believed to have been included in his tally of murders.

Big Business

At the height of his operations, Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel were so successful it was believed four in every five lines of cocaine consumed around the world had come through their hands. Escobar himself was believed to be earning $21.9 billion a year. No other criminal has ever earned this much money.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 22:  A South Korean banker carries US dollar bank notes at the Korea Exchange bank on February 22, 2005 in Seoul, South Korea. The South Korean won jumped to its highest intraday level in more than seven years in domestic trade on Tuesday, boosted by strong foreign equity buying and exporter deals. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Chung Sung-Jun/GettyImages

To put this into context, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk today earns around $2.2 billion a year. Of course, the drug trade is a much shorter and less secure career than the electric car industry but, even taking this into account, it’s fair to say Pablo Escobar was phenomenally successful.

Unusual Expenses

Pablo Escobar worked in a cash industry and, like Walter White’s storage locker in Breaking Bad, it meant he had some unusual problems he needed to solve. Fortunately, he could afford the solutions, and put his impressive finances and criminal mind to work, with rather interesting results. 

A Gates Learjet 25 executive jet on the tarmac at the Farnborough Air Show, 1st September 1974. (Photo by George W. Hales/Peter King/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Fox Photos/GettyImages

Escobar had so many notes to keep in order that, at one stage, it was estimated Escobar was spending $2500 every month on rubber bands. Transportation was an issue too. Escobar found buying a private Learjet was the most efficient way to move his mountains of cash from one place to another.

Wheels of Commerce

Aviation was an important part of Pablo Escobar’s business in general. Constantly searching for efficient and undetectable ways to move contraband products across long distances and international borders, Escobar and the cartel discovered a new place to store their checked baggage.

396531 05: A U.S. Navy Landing Signal Officer (LSO) helps land an F/A-18
U.S. Navy/GettyImages

Distribution teams would fill plane tires with bricks of cocaine before a flight’s departure. These would then be removed and emptied by a team at the destination, and the product moved on for local distribution. It’s understood this tactic was worth around $50,000 a day to the cartel.

Elected Official

It might seem strange to see a career criminal in an official government position, but that’s exactly what happened to Pablo Escobar. In 1982, with plenty of help from, his vast fortune, Escobar won the election to the Chamber of Representatives as part of the Liberal Alternative movement.

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 05:  The U.S. Supreme Court is shown February 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. It was announced today that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/GettyImages

This high-profile side-job had brought with it several important advantages. Most importantly, it granted the cartel leader a diplomatic visa and judicial immunity. It also made him responsible for community projects such as creating football fields and building houses, this improved his image amongst the Colombian public a great deal.

Los Extraditables

“We prefer a grave in Colombia to a prison in the United States,” was the motto of Los Extraditables, a group of Colombian drug lords in the 1980s, of whom Pablo Escobar was one. These individuals faced the potential of extradition to the U.S. and they united to try and prevent it at a constitutional level.

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 04: A Chicago police officer guards the perimeter of a crime scene where six people were found slain inside a home on the city

In 1985, a guerilla organization known as M-19 stormed the Colombian Supreme Court in protest of extradition to the U.S. They murdered around half of the judges and destroyed all the files relating to Los Extraditables. It is widely believed Escobar was involved in planning and supporting the event.

Clean Slate

Force Wasn’t the only method employed by Pablo Escobar to try and avoid facing trial and imprisonment in the U.S.A. In another attempt the weaponize his wealth, he had offered that in exchange for changing the country’s extradition laws, Escobar offered to pay off Colombia’s entire national debt. It must have been a tempting offer, but it was refused.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, AUGUST 14: Detail as a worker lays out the 500 Argentine peso note sheets before sending them to the cut and packaging machine at Casa de Moneda on August 14, 2020 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  To cope with one of the world
Ricardo Ceppi/GettyImages

Today’s Colombian government may wish their predecessors had taken a different attitude though, since while at the time Escobar made his offer, the total national debt was around $10 billion, today it is close to $166 billion.

Forbes List

Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. These are the five names at the top of the Forbes Rich List for 2021. The most widely recognized wealth list in America has also had some more interesting names on it over the decades.

The Fifth Avenue headquarters of Forbes Magazine in New York. (Photo by James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images)
James Leynse/GettyImages

In 1987, Pablo Escobar was included in the list for the first time and he remained there until his death in 1993. His position peaked in 1989 when he was ranked as the 7th richest person in the world. Escobar may have enjoyed the acclaim, but the notoriety wasn’t exactly ideal for a person working in a trade that relied on a certain level of anonymity.


While authorities would have to wait until after Pablo Escobar’s death to seize most of his possessions and estate, they did get their hands on a “small” amount of the cartel’s fleet of vehicles and infrastructure in the late 1980s. The amounts they got a hold of were absolutely insane.

MUGLA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 19: Eclipse, the private luxury yacht of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, anchors at Hisaronu Bay in Marmaris district of Mugla, southwestern Turkey on October 19, 2015. The 163-meter-long Eclipse, world
Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Colombia seized 142 planes, 20 helicopters, 32 yachts, and 141 homes and offices – basically enough to establish and defend a whole new town. Drug dealing might not seem like a real “business” to many people, but the administration of Escobar’s logistics department alone must have been complex enough to rival many legitimate corporations.


There are many ways to move drugs around the world; over land, in the sky, or sailing through the waves of seas and oceans. While there is always a way to escape detection, authorities have long since been developing ways to combat these movements.

A Soviet Kilo class patrol submarine underway on the surface, 1989. | Location: in the ocean. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pablo Escobar used all these ways, but he also pioneered a new form of movement that looks like it came straight out of a movie. In an effort to evade detection by U.S. authorities, Escobar bought two remote control submarines. An ingenious solution and one that is still used by many drug traffickers today.

Huge Loads

The biggest single shipment of cocaine Pablo Escobar is known to have sent to U.S. shores was weighed at an incredible 25.5 tons, an amount so big that it is almost hard to believe that he was able to pull it off. To put that into perspective. that is the equivalent of eight elephants, or, in financial terms, about $40 million wholesale.

ALMADA, PORTUGAL - MAY 31: View of impounded bales of cocaine in front of the captured sailboat as high-ranking officials from the Judicial Police, the Navy and the Air Force hold a press conference in the Lisbon Navy Base on
Horacio Villalobos/GettyImages

It’s believed that, at the height of the Medellin Cartel’s operations, around 15 tonnes every day was being distributed. That’s almost 5500 tonnes per year – which is over 1700 elephants and well, an awful lot of dollars. Enough to inspire even modern distribution giants like Jeff Bezos.

Robin Hood

Pablo Escobar led a bloody and criminal regime, and there is no denying the horror and damage he caused to ordinary people around the world and the headaches he gave to authorities in Colombia, the U.S, and beyond. However, that didn’t stop him from pursuing an image as something of a “Robin Hood” figure.

Sean Gallup/GettyImages

Escobar, in a very contrasting manner, when considering his other activities, worked hard to improve the lives of those living below the poverty line in his home country. This included establishing food programs, donating to hospitals and churches, building football stadiums, developing parks, and regenerating neighborhoods.

What’s in a Name?

Don Pablo (Sir Pablo), El Padrino (The Godfather), El Patrón (The Boss), The King of Cocaine, The King of Crack, Matar Pablo (Killing Pablo), Paisa Robin Hood – these are just a few of the names Pablo Escobar went by during his career as a drug lord.

LIVORNO, ITALY - FEBRUARY 01: An officer of the Guardia di Finanza shows the complex way to seal the bricks of cocaine with DG (Dolce & Gabbana) luxury fashion logos on them, containing codes serving as mode of communication for drug dealers, are displayed on February 1, 2019 in Livorno, Italy. Black backpacks containing 644 kg of cocaine, worth in the region of over 130 million euros, were found in a container in the port of Livorno. The cocaine was found on January 15, 2019 by the 2 Compagnia of the Guardia di Finanza di Livorno in a container on a ship over some sacks of coffee and is one of the biggest drug seizures ever occurring in Italy and Europe. The cocaine was divided into 582 bricks and hidden in 23 black backpacks placed inside the container.  (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)
Laura Lezza/GettyImages

His parents had named him Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, but when you’re head of a bloodthirsty cartel, image is important, so it’s good to get a little creative. Which names Escobar himself came up with, and which were thought up by groveling minions or fearful enemies, is unknown.

Lost Money

How much of your savings could you afford to lose each year before it started to have an impact? Two percent? Five percent? One of the hazards of Pablo Escobar amassing such a huge wealth in cash was that he was forced to write off around ten percent of his earnings simply because the actual cash was lost or damaged.

UKRAINE - 2020/08/26: In this photo illustration one hundred US dollar banknotes are seen on display. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images/GettyImages

The King of Cocaine had to find so many hiding places for his money it was impossible to make sure all were completely secure. Some money became too water damaged to spend, some was simply lost, and some was eaten by rats. In total, Escobar is estimated to have lost around $2.2 billion a year in this way.

Extreme Measures

On November 27, 1989, Avianca Flight 203 exploded over the Soacha area of Colombia. All 107 people on board were killed, as were three more on the ground. Pablo Escobar had instructed two men to board the flight carrying a suitcase and sit directly above the main fuel tank. Just before take-off, one man left the flight. The other had been told he was carrying a recording device and, once the flight was in the air, he should turn it on to record any conversation between two passengers nearby.

Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Of course, it was a bomb, not a recorder, and Escobar’s man unwittingly killed himself along with everyone else when he flipped the switch. Escobar’s target had been a single person, the presidential candidate Cesar Gaviria Trujillo. Trujillo was not on board and was elected to office the following year.

It Wasn’t Me

Four years after Avianca Flight 203, Pablo Escobar was accused of orchestrating a bomb attack on New York City’s World Trade Center. A truck bomb was detonated beneath Tower 1 with the intention of collapsing it completely and bringing Tower 2 down with it. Had it succeeded, 50,000 or more people could have been killed. It failed, but it did take the lives of six people, including a pregnant woman.

402285 02: New York City firefighters, police and others search the debris field March 13, 2002, at the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in New York City, a day after the remains of 11 firefighters and two civilians were recovered in an area that was the south tower. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/GettyImages

Before the true perpetrators were discovered, the finger of suspicion was pointed towards Escobar. The cartel leader was enraged. He sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to say he would never do such a thing, after all, the people in those towers were his customers.

Anything But America

The reason Pablo Escobar was so determined to take out Cesar Gaviria Trujillo was the potential president’s policy on extradition. Trujillo had declared that, if elected, he intended to pass a law that would allow drug traffickers to be extradited to face trial, and potentially jail, in the United States.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09:  New York Police Department  tactical police officers stand guard near the New York Stock Exchange on September 9, 2011 in New York City. Officials are stepping up security in New York and Washington D.C. a day after U.S. officials received a credible but unconfirmed terror threat to utilize car bombs on bridges or tunnels in New York or Washington.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/GettyImages

As you can probably tell by now, that was the thing Escobar feared most in the world. If he were imprisoned in Colombia he could still bribe officials, run his business, and look after his family. None that would be possible from an American jail cell.

La Catedral

On August 18, 1989 cartel hitmen assassinated the politician Luis Carlos Galán after he publicly announced support for extradition to the U.S. This prompted Cesar Gaviria Trujillo to take action. Rather than risk the violence escalating, Trujillo made Pablo Escobar an offer.

HELSINKI, FINLAND - OCTOBER 07:  Finnish man and women dance on the dance floor of Studio 51 nightclub on October 07, 2005 in Helsinki, Finland. Most of the nightclubs in Helsinki are located in the city center.  (Photo by Yoray Liberman/Getty Images)
Yoray Liberman/GettyImages

The deal was that Escobar would hand himself in and halt all criminal activity, in exchange, he would not only be able to serve his punishment in Colombia, but he would also receive a reduced sentence, preferential treatment, and he would be allowed to build his own prison. Escobar took the deal and built La Catedral, a prison that featured a casino, a nightclub, and a spa.

No Deal

Pablo Escobar may have said he agreed to all of Cesar Gaviria Trujillo’s terms, but his actions were different. Yes, he gave himself up and allowed himself to be incarcerated in his own luxury prison. The bit about ceasing all criminal activity, however, he was less willing to comply with.

MARIANNA, FLORIDA - CIRCA 2016: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been shot in black and white. Color version not available.) The now shuttered Dozier School for Boys, a jail for youth in Florida, is a notorious site where many kids died and were buried in unmarked graves, as seen in 2016 , in Marianna, Florida. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Andrew Lichtenstein/GettyImages

When authorities learned Escobar was still running the cartel from inside La Catedral, they began making plans to move him to a standard prison. Of course, Escobar found out and the deal was off completely. He escaped and remained officially on the run for the rest of his life.



Joined Forces

Pablo Escobar’s escape from prison was the last straw for the authorities who had sought to bring him to justice for around three decades. This was the moment when the Colombian police had teamed up with U.S Special forces in order to put an end to his crimes once and for all.


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 09: A fence surrounds the Cook County jail complex on April 09, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. With nearly 400 cases of COVID-19 having been diagnosed among the inmates and employees, the jail is nation’s largest-known source of coronavirus infections. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/GettyImages

A joint unit was constructed featuring members of Central Spike (Intelligence Support Agency), Delta Force (Army Special Ops), and DEVGRU (Navy Seals). Escobar remained in hiding but, with this sort of power and commitment amassing against him, he must have known his days as a free man were numbered.



Los Pepes

It wasn’t only the authorities who had lost patience with Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. Troubles had begun to bubble from within, and as the drug gang leader remained on the loose, a vigilante group formed and began carrying out increasingly violent actions against members of the cartel.


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 06: A man mourns at the gravestone of a relative who died during the Korean War on Memorial Day at the Seoul National Cemetery  on June 06, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea is marking the 67th anniversary of Memorial Day, in tribute of people who died during military service in the 1950-53 Korean War.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Chung Sung-Jun/GettyImages

Los Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar), who were largely funded by rival cartels and former associates of Escobar, destroyed property and killed anyone they could find connected to Escobar. Associates, lawyers, and family were all murdered in a bloody campaign which resulted in more than 300 deaths.



Fuel Bills

Similar to the laws of supply and demand, one of the most simple economic rules is that the more of something you have, the less it is likely to be worth. That was certainly the case with Pablo Escobar’s cash. With more available money than he could possibly spend, each paper note was of far less consequence to Escobar than it might be to you or me.


HONG KONG, CHINA - 2020/09/01: Paper money being burnt during the festival.
According to local tradition, the Hungry Ghost Festival is marked believing that the gates of hell will open for the month (July of the Chinese lunar Calendar) and ghosts would roam the streets. (Photo by Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images/GettyImages

This was demonstrated when Escobar’s daughter became ill while the family was hiding out in the Medellin mountains in 1992 and 1993. She needed to be kept warm and the most combustible material to hand was cash, so Escobar burned around $2.2 million to generate the heat the family needed.


Final Showdown

Pablo Escobar remained on the run for 18 months after his escape from prison. Then, on December 2, 1993, he found himself cornered at a property in Los Olivos. Colombian police tracked Escobar’s location by using cell phone triangulation and a party of 8 officers stormed the building in which they believed Escobar to be hiding.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 23: Police investigate the scene of a shooting in Brooklyn on June 23, 2021 in New York City. New Yorkers are increasingly concerned about a rise in violence in the city with a 53.2 percent hike in shootings from last year so far this year. Eric Adams, a former New York City police sergeant, is currently in the lead for the Democratic nomination for mayor due to his tough on crime platform. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/GettyImages

What ensued was a movie-style shoot-out leading to a climactic rooftop scene. After two other fugitives were killed, Escobar was dealt gunshot wounds to the leg and torso. The final shot that killed Pablo Escobar traveled through his ear. Whether this was done in the shootout, in a final execution, or was delivered by a cornered Escobar himself, is a matter of ongoing debate.

He Said He Would

The theory that Pablo Escobar turned a gun on himself once he knew the game was up has been perpetuated by his two brother’s events since that fateful day on the Los Olivos rooftop. Roberto Escobar and Fernando Sánchez Arellano released a statement saying, “[Pablo] had committed suicide, he did not get killed. “

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Wei Pang of China competes in the 50m pistol qualifying event on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Shooting Centre on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/GettyImages

One of the brothers explained this by telling readers and listeners that, “during all the years they went after him, [Pablo] would say to me every day that if he was really cornered without a way out, he would ‘shoot himself through the ear’.”

Popular to the End

Despite the swell of public and political opinion against him, Pablo Escobar had remained hugely popular with many people in death as he had in life. Amazingly, his funeral was attended by more than 25,000 people.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 17: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Peter Phillips, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence follow Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Pool/Max Mumby/GettyImages

These types of grand funerals are usually saved for beloved artists or world leaders, and Escobar’s policy of using his wealth and power to help the lives of Colombia’s poor had ensured he would be remembered in some quarters as a folk hero. A violent, bloody, and merciless folk hero for sure, but one who earned the love of those he helped nonetheless.

Pablo Belfort

If you’re wondering what it was like to be an “employee” of the Medellin Cartel, then you might want to re-watch The Wolf of Wall Street. Just like Jordan Belfort, Pablo Escobar was happy to spend huge amounts of his ill-gotten gains to entertain his loyal team members.

A US one hundred dollar bill with Benjamin Franklin is seen amongst other bills in New York on Friday, February 19, 2016. The U.S. Treasury Dept. is proposing phasing out the $100 bill because the larger bills are
Richard Levine/GettyImages

On some occasions, he was known to hire groups of beauty queens to eat insects, climb trees, or take part in sports car races – all while nude, of course. At other times, Escobar and his football-mad lieutenants would pay to fly in their favorite soccer players and organize matches for the cartel men to bet on. 


Of course, when authorities raided Pablo Escobar’s home there were many things they expected to find. Some, however, were quite a surprise. In Escobar’s book library, they found one particular title which may have explained his phenomenal success.

PRESOV, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 19: An unidentified man browses through the book in the regional Library of P. O. Hviezdoslav after it was re-opened under new COVID-19 measures allowing people to choose books directly from the open spaces of the library on April 19, 2021 in Presov, Slovakia. Slovakia has recorded over 374,000 cases of COVID-19 infections, over 11,000 deaths in total, in a population of 5.4 million residents. Certain shops, libraries, museums, hotels, Zoos, botanical gardens, swimming pools, and churches will be allowed to open their doors under strict regulations for people. Travel between regional districts will be allowed with a negative antigen or PCR test. (Photo by Zuzana Gogova/Getty Images)
Zuzana Gogova/GettyImages

On one of Escobar’s bookshelves was El Poder Del Pensamiento Tenaz, the Spanish translation of Norman Vincent Peale’s self-help book, The Power of Positive Thinking. How Peale felt about inspiring one of the bloodiest cartel leaders in modern history is unknown, but it seems at least his theories have been thoroughly put to the test.


Pablo Escobar built a private zoo at his Hacienda Nápoles estate in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia. He imported giraffes and elephants, but it was his hippos that have made the longest-lasting impression. Escobar originally brought in four hippos. The animals were judged too difficult to seize and move after the drug lord’s death and were simply released into the local habitat.

25th July 1960:  Frank Meakins weighs Doreen and Julie, twin tiger cubs, born at the Whipsnade Zoo, in May.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

By 2014 they were believed to be around 40 hippos with the population doubling in size every few years. Today they are considered a real threat to the local ecosystem and need to be managed by a program of chemical castration.

Buried Treasure

Another way Pablo Escobar hid cash was to stuff it into plastic drums, which he would then bury. Most were buried in or around his many properties, but some were taken out into the countryside. 

KYIV, UKRAINE - MAY 30: A farmer shovel seeds on an agricultural land as the Russian attacks effect agriculture sector negatively in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 30, 2022. (Photo by Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Unfortunately for both Escobar and the Colombian authorities who ultimately seized all his wealth, keeping records of where these drums were buried doesn’t seem to have been one of the Medellin Cartel’s strong points. Millions, if not billions, of dollars were never recovered and are assumed to still be underground somewhere in Colombia. A couple of spades and a plane ticket to Bogotá, anyone?

Escobar was but one of many successful criminals that left their mark on history, keep up to learn some more about those brilliant evil masterminds! 

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The origin of the Oriental Brothers International Band can be traced to a man, JOHN IKEDIALA. He’s a relative of Dan Satch, who himself is a founding member of the group.

Shortly after the Biafra War, a lot of Igbos faced hardship as a fallout of the War. Igbos lost homes, property, friends, and family. One such person was John Ikediala, a musician, who could barely survive and his music career was at a standstill. So, Dan Satch’s wife pleaded with him to help Ikediala resuscitate his band so that he could have a source of livelihood and not die.

Dan Satch, in his usual nature of benevolence, abandoned his job as a mechanic, to help John Ikediala to revamp his band. This however came at a cost to Dan Satch. Not only did he abandon his work as a mechanic, friends, and relatives mocked him for abandoning his work for music.

And so, the journey to the great Oriental Brothers International Band started, without their knowing it. Dan Satch assembled musicians, those he knew and those that were brought to him. Among these musicians were Tony Awoma, Kabaka, and Warrior. Actually, Kabaka came to replace Awoma, who in his usual nature was not a stable person and had gone even before anything too serious had begun. It was because he was always coming and going that Dan Satch actually brought Kabaka to replace him. (Awoma returned in 1977 to replace Kabaka when he too left in 1976).

Warrior himself also came to replace the first vocalist. At this time, Dan Satch could only play xylophone and nothing else. He left the xylophone when Aquila joined since Aquila was good at percussions and conga. Dan Satch then started teaching himself how to play the guitar and bass. Finally, a band was formed for John Ikediala with Warrior on vocals, Kabaka on guitar, Dan Satch on bass, Ichita on drums, and Aquila on percussions.

In search of greener pastures, the band moved to Kano around 1970/71. However, the move turned out to be a disaster. John Ikediala became selfish and didn’t take care of the band. According to Dan Satch, the band members had to endure serious hunger, with Kabaka quitting the band.

By 1972, the boys couldn’t bear it any longer and Dan Satch appealed to those who were left that he had a sister in Lagos and that they should move there. So the band landed in Lagos and stayed in Ikeja. They initially were playing in hotels and joints. Dan Satch began searching for Kabaka again and eventually brought him back to the band. However, according to Dan Satch, Kabaka was very reluctant to come back. He had to send important people to him with some cash to persuade him to come back. Kabaka eventually returned but was rumoured to have given Dan Satch one condition: that he be appointed band leader. A request Dan Satch granted.

Kabaka, Warrior and Dan Satch on the cover of their 1997 reunion album, Anyi Abiala Ozo

They continued as a band in this fashion without a name, not to talk of the Oriental Brothers International Band they are now famously known. Dan Satch started visiting record companies to secure a recording contract. He first went to EMI where the band was rejected outrightly. This was because Sony Okosuns who was the A&R Manager at that time allegedly blocked them. From there, they went to DECCA/Afrodisia where they were also initially rejected due to comments also allegedly made by Ebenezer Obey, but the receptionist, a man at the studio who was Igbo, pressed a few buttons for them. Miraculously, DECCA officials sent a message to Dan Satch that they were coming to the hotel where they were based to audition.

Warrior and Dan Satch on the sleeve of Obi Nwanne album

Dan Satch got the boys ready including buying polo t-shirts for each of the members so the band could look clean and professional. The band played Ìhè Chi Nyere for the audition. It was a simple setup with Warrior on vocals, Kabaka on lead guitar, Dan Satch on bass, Ichita on drums, and Aquila on percussion. There was no rhythm guitar part for the song and Kabaka had to keep playing non-stop throughout the length of the song.

Fortunately, DECCA was somewhat impressed and the boys were invited to the company to sign a contract in 1973. It was at the point of filling out the forms that the name ORIENTAL BROTHERS came about. This was how the Oriental Brothers International Band was born.

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Image caption, An artist is behind a project to revive the story of Nangeli

The story of a lower caste woman who cut her breasts to protest against a discriminatory “breast tax” in British-ruled India is being revived by an artist wants to recognize her sacrifice. BBC Hindi’s Divya Arya reports from the south Indian state of Kerala.

The story of Nangeli may never have been known, but for a chance discovery.

Four years ago, artist Murali T was flipping through an in-house magazine of a local bank, when he stumbled on a small report about Nangeli, written by a native from her area, Cherthala.

Intrigued by the story, he made his way to the small sleepy town.

“I spent a lot of time with the local people of Cherthala and even found the locality where Nangeli is believed to have lived over 100 years ago.

The house that stands where Nangeli was born
Image caption, The village Nangeli comes from is called Mulachhipuram or the land of the woman with breasts

“It was called Mulachhipuram or the land of the woman with breasts, named to remember Nangeli’s great sacrifice against the breast-tax,” he told the BBC.

It is a village tale that is not officially recognised in any of India’s historical accounts.

But the story of Nangeli is much loved by her local villagers – and now Murali T hopes to document it and have it recognised as part of Kerala’s history by the government.

Reinforcing caste structure

The “breast-tax” had been imposed by the king of the erstwhile State of Travancore, one of the 550 princely States that existed in British ruled India.

Women from lower castes were not allowed to cover their breasts, and were taxed heavily if they did so.

“The purpose of the breast-tax was to maintain the caste structure,” said Dr Sheeba KM, an associate Professor of gender ecology and Dalit studies at the Shri Shankaracharya Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya in Kerala.

Social customs on clothing were tailored to a person’s caste status, which meant that they could be identified merely by the way they dressed.

Image of Nangeli

Nangeli belonged to the Ezhava caste. Her community was required to pay the tax along with other lower castes like the Thia, Nadar and Dalit communities.

But, villagers say, she decided to protest by covering her chest without paying the breast-tax – a brave move in the early 1900s for a woman of lower caste status.

Our auto rickshaw driver Mohanan Narayan takes us to the neighbourhood where Nangeli lived.

“When the tax inspector heard she was refusing to pay the tax, he went to her house to ask her to stop breaking the law. But she still refused to pay the tax, and cut her breasts off in protest instead,” he says.

According to local villagers, Nangeli died of excessive blood loss, while her distraught husband committed suicide by jumping into her funeral pyre. The couple had no children.

Her relatives moved out of Mulachhipuram to nearby towns and hamlets.

Recognising sacrifice

Maniyan Velu, her cousin’s great-grand-son, says he feels upset that Nangeli’s story is not more widely known.

“Her act was selfless, a sacrifice to benefit all the women of Travancore, and ultimately forced the King to roll back the breast-tax,” he says.

An old man, Maniyan owns no land, and his children work as farm labourers. But he is not looking for charity, only some recognition.

“We feel so proud that we are her family. All we want is that more people should know about her sacrifice. It would be befitting if her name was made a part of this region’s history,” he tells the BBC.

Murali T hopes to make that happen.

He was so moved by Nangeli’s story and the absence of any visual documentation that he decided to paint a likeness of the violent act she brought upon herself.

“I did not want to depict it as a bloody event; instead my aim was to glorify her act as an inspiration to humanity, a representation that would command respect,” he said.

His three paintings of Nangeli have now been published in his book, Amana – The Hidden Pictures of History, this year.

He has also held 15 exhibitions of his paintings across Kerala and now plans to hold one in a public place in Cherthala.

“If I can get the people of that area to take notice, that may help convince the government to include this important act as part of our official history.”

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